Sunday, April 26, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 26, 2020

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 26, 2020
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Vic DiBitetto: Dear government: We need a real fucking plan, you shitbags

Shorter Twitter video:
Dear government: We need a real fucking plan, you shitbags
[via Mike Norman Economics]

Strategic Political Economy

Bill Clinton guru James Carville famously blurted "It's the economy stupid." Actually, it's the economic ideology. If the American people are going to save themselves, they need to understand that their ruling elites are Malthusians of the Social Darwinian type.

McConnell Says He Favors Letting States Declare Bankruptcy
[Bloomberg, April 22, 2020]
McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he blocked additional state and local aid in the latest relief package, which passed the Senate Tuesday and is set for a vote Thursday in the House. “I said yesterday we’re going to push the pause button here, because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell added. Later, on Fox News, McConnell said that any state or local aid must be specifically linked to the pandemic and shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity for “revenue replacement.” 
“We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them,” McConnell said. “We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they’ve made in the past. We’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created for themselves with bad decisions in the past.”
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said most states don’t need to restructure their debt. “Rather, they are suffering unprecedented revenue loss due to the shutdown of our economy just like so many businesses in the private sector,” Saunders said. “The money they need now is to maintain vital life-saving services provided by front-line workers in the face of the most dire public health emergency in a century.”
“We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them.” Translation: we should avoid the costs of caring for retirees and just let them die off faster. And just in case you don't understand yet:

The Right Wing Wants You to Die
[Vice, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]
Earlier this week, someone showed up at a protest in Nashville, Tennessee with a sign reading "Sacrifice the weak.".... 
Other rich, advanced countries like South Korea and Germany have arrived at a solution. By using state power to do what scientists and economists say is necessary—testing the population, isolating the infected, and tracing their contacts, while financially supporting citizens who have lost income—they've reduced death and the spread of the virus without imposing mass suffering, offering the possibility of a return to something like normal life. The United States hasn't seriously prepared or planned to do any of these things. Instead of organizing a response, federal leaders are engaged in piracy. The Senate's majority leader wants states to declare bankruptcy. Trump has suggested injecting bleach into patients' lungs....
The phrase "death cult" has been used to describe the Republican Party enough lately that it's probably lost any real meaning, but it's not far off as a descriptor. Ohio congressman Jim Jordan, head of the House Freedom Caucus, supports the protests and doesn't understand why the economy shouldn't have been opened yesterday. Pennsylvania lawmaker Mike Jones participated in a protest in Harrisburg this week, calling it "the best of America." A protest in Michigan was organized by the vice-chair of Trump's state campaign and the grassroots vice-chair of the state Republican Party. Government is organizing protests of itself to rally support for policies that would result in mass death.
[Sapienta, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-22-20] Interview with Chris Arnade. 
“What I find particularly unsettling is the utter lack of commitment to a given place demonstrated by many with wealth in American society. By leaving Manhattan for a Long Island beach bungalow or Jersey City for a Hudson Valley home, they are denying any responsibility for acquaintances, neighbors, or friends and effectively refusing membership in a larger community–a community that serves them in good times. Compare this to the actions of people with lesser means than Arnade’s elite. Struggling local restaurants prepare meals for overworked EMTs. Young people stand in long grocery store lines to pick up food for elderly neighbors. Volunteers stitch together face masks for sleep-deprived nurses. Arnade writes about ‘front row’ and ‘back row’ America and urges us to perceive the dignity and the worth of those sitting in the back row. But what does the COVID-19 pandemic tell us about front row Americans? Do they deserve our respect?”

“The Economy of Evil” 
[, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-22-20] 
“Before the rise of Fascism, both Italy and Germany had a robust social safety net and public services. In Italy, the trains were nationalized, and they ran on time while serving rural villages in 1861. The telecom industry was nationalized in 1901. Phone lines and public telephone services were universally available. In 1908, the life insurance industry was nationalized. For the first time, even poor Italians could ensure that their family could be taken care of if they died a premature death…. 
Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister in October 1922. Nazis rose to power in 1933 in Germany. Mussolini convened a meeting of his cabinet and immediately decided to privatize all the public enterprises. On December 3, 1922, they passed a law where they promised to reduce the size and function of the government, reform tax laws and also reduce spending. … Hitler’s economic policy was Mussolini’s policy on steroids…. 
In 1934, Nazis outlined their plan to revitalize the German economy. It involved reprivatization of significant industries: railways, public works project, construction, steel, and banking. On top of that, Hitler guaranteed profits for the private sector, and so, many American industrialists and bankers gleefully flocked to Germany to invest. The Nazis had a thorough plan for deregulation. The Nazi’s economist, stated,” The first thing German business needs is peace and quiet. It must have a feeling of absolute legal security and must know that work and its return are guaranteed. The interferences in a business which occurred at first, perhaps as a result of too much zeal, have become intolerable.'”

America’s Underlying Conditions
George Packer. April 20, 2020 [The Atlantic]
Do we trust our leaders and one another enough to summon a collective response to a mortal threat? Are we still capable of self-government?
This is the third major crisis of the short 21st century. The first, on September 11, 2001, came when Americans were still living mentally in the previous century, and the memory of depression, world war, and cold war remained strong. On that day, people in the rural heartland did not see New York as an alien stew of immigrants and liberals that deserved its fate, but as a great American city that had taken a hit for the whole country. Firefighters from Indiana drove 800 miles to help the rescue effort at Ground Zero. Our civic reflex was to mourn and mobilize together.
Partisan politics and terrible policies, especially the Iraq War, erased the sense of national unity and fed a bitterness toward the political class that never really faded. The second crisis, in 2008, intensified it. At the top, the financial crash could almost be considered a success. Congress passed a bipartisan bailout bill that saved the financial system. Outgoing Bush-administration officials cooperated with incoming Obama administration officials. The experts at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department used monetary and fiscal policy to prevent a second Great Depression. Leading bankers were shamed but not prosecuted; most of them kept their fortunes and some their jobs. Before long they were back in business. A Wall Street trader told me that the financial crisis had been a “speed bump.”
All of the lasting pain was felt in the middle and at the bottom, by Americans who had taken on debt and lost their jobs, homes, and retirement savings. Many of them never recovered, and young people who came of age in the Great Recession are doomed to be poorer than their parents. Inequality—the fundamental, relentless force in American life since the late 1970s—grew worse....
Republican politicians and donors who wanted government to do as little as possible for the common good could live happily with a regime that barely knew how to govern at all, and they made themselves Trump’s footmen.... Trump began to immolate what was left of national civic life. He never even pretended to be president of the whole country, but pitted us against one another along lines of race, sex, religion, citizenship, education, region, and—every day of his presidency—political party. His main tool of governance was to lie. A third of the country locked itself in a hall of mirrors that it believed to be reality; a third drove itself mad with the effort to hold on to the idea of knowable truth; and a third gave up even trying....
It turns out that everything has a cost, and years of attacking government, squeezing it dry and draining its morale, inflicts a heavy cost that the public has to pay in lives. All the programs defunded, stockpiles depleted, and plans scrapped meant that we had become a second-rate nation. Then came the virus and this strange defeat....
Jeffrey Sachs [The New Yorker, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
Nobody here has viewed government as actually very functional for a long time, and not because it couldn’t be. It has been increasingly designed to fail. Specifically, it’s been designed to respond to powerful lobbies that want deregulation or tax cuts or some special privileges rather than to function in a normal way.  
US Coronavirus “Bailout” Is a $6 Trillion Scam -  Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton With Michael Hudson
Moderate Rebels podcast of April 21, via Naked Capitalism 4-24-20]
Just think of when, in the debates with Bernie Sanders during the spring, Biden and Klobuchar kept saying, ‘What we’re paying for Medicare-for-All will be $1 trillion over 10 years.’ Well, here the Fed can create $1.5 trillion in one week just to buy stocks. 
Why is it okay for the Fed to create $1.5 trillion to buy stocks to prevent rich people from losing on their stocks, when it’s not okay to print only $1 trillion to pay for free Medicare for the entire population? This is crazy! 
The idea is that only the rich should be allowed to print money for themselves, but the government should not be allowed to print money for any public purpose, any social purpose — not for medicine, not for schools, not for personal budgets, not for full employment — but only to give to the 1 percent. People hesitate to think that. They think, ‘It can’t possibly be this bad.’ ....
Banks and corporations, airlines, have a whole wish list that they had their lawyers and lobbyists prepare for just such an opportunity. And when the opportunity comes up — whether it’s 9/11 with the Patriot Act, or whether it’s today’s coronavirus — they just pasted the word coronavirus onto an act, which should be called a giveaway to the big banking sector. 
Let’s talk about who’s not bailed out. Who’s not bailed out are the small business owners, the restaurants, the companies that you walk down the street in New York or other cities, and they’re all shuttered with closed signs. Their rent is accumulating, month after month. 
Restaurants, gyms and stores are small-markup businesses, small-margin businesses, where, once you have no sales for maybe three months and rent accruing for three months, they’re not going to have enough money to earn the profits to pay the rents that have mounted up for the last three months. 
The other people that are not being bailed out are the workers — especially the people they call the prime necessary workers, which is their euphemism for minimum-wage workers without any job security. There have been huge layoffs of minimum-wage labor, manual labor, all sorts of labor. 
They’re not getting income, but their rents are accruing. And their utility bills are accruing. Their student loans are accruing. And their credit card debts are mounting up at interest and penalty rates, which are even larger than the interest rates. So all of these debts are accruing. 
The real explosion is going to come in three months, when all of a sudden, this money falls due. The governor of New York has said, “Well we have a moratorium on actually evicting people for three months.” So there are restaurants and other people, individuals, wage-earners, who are going to be able to live in their apartments and not be evicted. But at the end of three months, that’s when the eviction notices are going to come. And people are going to decide, is it worth it?

The Epidemic

[ProPublica, via Naked Capitalism 4-20-20]
  • Massive, ongoing testing to detect where the disease is spreading,
  • a real-time ability to trace contacts of those infected and isolate them,
  • a willingness of people to wear masks in crowded public spaces,
  • reserves of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment for hospital workers to handle any surge in cases,
  • and reliable, easily administered blood tests to find out the number of people who have been infected. If they work well, such tests could eventually be used to identify people with immunity who could work at higher-risk jobs.
No Longer Invisible: The Critical Role Of Local Health Departments In Responding To COVID-19
[HealthAffairs, April 16, 2020]
From their regular community health assessments and community health improvement plans, LHDs [Local Health Departments] are best equipped to know the unique needs of their communities and vulnerable populations... LHDs have assembled valuable information on the location of vulnerable populations requiring tailored interventions for COVID-19. A 2018 survey of LHDs found that 95 percent specifically address the needs of the elderly in emergency preparedness activities, and approximately 80 percent consider the needs of individuals with chronic diseases; both groups are particularly susceptible to COVID-19.

Through the Public Health 3.0 initiative, LHDs are increasingly engaging with community partners across sectors to increase the impact of public health interventions and improve the social determinants of health. This community engagement is integral to public health preparedness. The Richland, Ohio, LHD partnered with public libraries to help residents monitor their blood pressure. To address the opioid epidemic, the Boston Public Health Commission leveraged its relationships with business owners, public library staff, college and university campus safety, and security at tourist destinations. In Douglas County, Nebraska, the LHD collaborated with the Omaha Public Library system, community centers, correctional facilities, and large event venues to deliver free testing for sexually transmitted infections. These preexisting relationships can be mobilized to ensure these businesses implement social distancing measures to limit the spread of infection and educate the public. LHDs’ participation in coalitions with health care providers are also critical in coordinating emergency responses.
[National Association of County and City Health Officials, April 16, 2020]
Given global experience with contact tracing, as well as staffing needs at local, state, tribal, and territorial health departments across the many disciplines needed for contact tracing, we estimate a surge capacity of at least 100,000 individuals will be needed. This number is a baseline estimate based on a ratio of 30 professionals per every 100,000 Americans and will need to be revisited as we learn more about the virus and develop improved cases count estimates.  Therefore, clear, comprehensive wrap-around policies and services must be enacted, including: • Safe housing for quarantine or isolation • Paid time off • Childcare • Behavioral health services to address stress on the individual and family • Access to essentials such as food, medications, laundry, etc. • Transportation and/or access to routine medical care or emergency care • Materials, such as a reliable thermometer, masks and gloves, and internet access....
Local health departments budgets and workforce were hard hit by the 2008 recession, losing nearly 25% of their workforce since that time.
National Association of County and City Health Officials list of immediate funding needed from Congress:
  • At least $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental funding to local, state, territorial, tribal, and federal public health agencies to support a force of at least 100,000 contact tracers.
  •  $200 million to enact and implement a loan repayment program for public health professionals who agree to serve two years in a local, state, or tribal health department, which could support over 6,000 new hires
  • $4.5 billion in additional annual mandatory funding for local, state, tribal, and territorial core public health infrastructure, in addition to existing annual discretionary appropriations.
The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation's nearly 3,000 local governmental health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments

A National Plan to Enable Comprehensive COVID-19 Case Finding and Contact Tracing in the U.S. (PDF) (
[Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, with Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Apr. 10, 2020]
In order to trace all contacts, safely isolate the sick, and quarantine those exposed, we estimate that our public health workforce needs to add approximately 100,000 (paid or volunteer) contact tracers to assist with this large-scale effort. This workforce could be strategically deployed to areas of greatest need and managed through state and local public health agencies that are on the front lines of COVID-19 response. To do this, we also estimate that Congress will need to appropriate approximately $3.6 billion in emergency funding to state and territorial health departments.... 
Based on the average pay for a community health worker of $17 an hour, the potential overall need for funding for a cadre of 100,000 contact investigators, absent a huge number of unpaid volunteers, would amount to approximately $3.6 billion. This is assuming that all 100,000 workers work full time for 1 year.
“The US needs to do 20 million tests a day to reopen safely, according to new plan” 
[MIT Technology Review, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-20-20]  
A group of experts has produced a plan for the US to reopen its economy safely this summer. However, it’s contingent on doing at least 20 million tests every day, scaling up contact tracing, and ensuring those who need to isolate can be properly supported. The report, produced by 45 cross-disciplinary experts assembled by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, says we need to be testing 5 million a day by early June in order to start reopening the country, increasing to 20 million by mid-summer to fully end the shutdown. From the start, the World Health Organization has said the only way to beat the virus is to “test, test, test.” That message seems to be finally getting through.'” • Here is the summary chart the experts produced:

Nobel-winning economist Paul Romer unveiled an 11-page “road map to responsibly reopen America.”[New York Times 4-24-20]
Clearing the roadblocks is a first step, but the market will not solve the issue alone as testing evolves into a public good. Building this capacity will take an investment from the federal government to ensure labs can count on a funding stream. 
At scale, a reasonable estimate would be a $10 cost per test for labs. 20 million tests per day translates into about $73 billion per year. Along with other costs for infrastructure, training, and production of supplies, I estimate the government will need to allocate $100 billion to the development of a testing strategy. I urge Congress to include the $100 billion in the Phase 4 coronavirus stimulus bill to generate a revenue stream for labs as soon as possible. The market cannot independently solve this problem. The need for a new revenue stream that creates necessary incentives for labs to innovate at the scale possible is inescapable. 
For each month of lockdown, the U.S. economy suffers a loss of $500 billion from lost output that month and lost capacity to produce in the future. Lifting the lockdown without a clear containment strategy will have relatively little financial impact due to continued fear and uncertainty (we may cut the loss to $400 billion a month) and will undoubtedly carry extraordinary human cost. A temporary relaxation of lockdown will offer little economic benefit because it won’t give consumers or firms the necessary confidence to plan and invest. 
The economic argument for investing in an approach we know will provide certainty and safety is undeniable. A $100 billion annual investment in testing until all Americans have been vaccinated would pay for itself many times over, and it would provide the necessary revenue stream for labs to rapidly expand testing capacity.

 The Potential Health Care Costs And Resource Use Associated With COVID-19 In The United States 
[Health Affairs, via Naked Capitalism 4-24-20]
With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, one of the major concerns is the burden COVID-19 will impose on the United States (U.S.) health care system. We developed a Monte Carlo simulation model representing the U.S. population and what can happen to each person who gets infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). We estimate resource use and direct medical costs per infection and at the national level, with various “attack rates” (infection rates) to understand the potential economic benefits of reducing the burden of the disease. A single symptomatic COVID-19 infection would cost a median of $3,045 in direct medical costs incurred only during the course of the infection. Eighty percent of the U.S. population getting infected could result in a median of 44.6 million hospitalizations, 10.7 million ICU admissions, 6.5 million ventilators used, and 249.5 million hospital bed days, costing $654.0 billion in direct costs over the course of the pandemic. If 20% were to become infected, there would be a median of 11.2 million hospitalizations, 62.3 million hospital bed days, and 1.6 million ventilators used, costing $163.4 billion.
[Texas Tribune, via Naked Capitalism 4-23-20]

Progressive policies into the breach 

COVID-19 Emergency Response Group

H.R.6515: To suspend obligations of residential renters and mortgagors to make payments during the COVID-19 emergency, and for other purposes.

Poll Shows Majority of Americans Support Canceling Rent and Suspending Mortgage Payments During Pandemic 
[Common Dreams, via Naked Capitalism 4-19-20]

National Low Income Housing Coalition [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-22-20]
The @NLIHC  research team created a searchable database and map of most multifamily properties covered under the federal moratoriums. It’s not yet comprehensive, but can help many renters know if they are protected.

Nathan Tankus, April 24, 2020
“Tax and state regulatory authorities are more equipped at providing the kind of oversight we want- confirming employees of businesses and auditing costs- and are just as capable of initiating payments that the banking system processes. They also already have payroll and banking information of businesses, eliminating problems we’ve had in making direct payments to individuals.”
“The Pandemic Financial Terms You Should Know Right Now” 
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
For example: “Forbearance: If you lose the battle to invoke force majeure, you can ask for forbearance, which is when a lender agrees to go easy on an overdue borrower. The lender isn’t just being nice; in a crisis like this, it has no interest in forcing thousands of borrowers into bankruptcy and assuming ownership of their devalued houses and cars. Even the Federal Reserve is urging lenders to be “responsive to the needs of low- and moderate-income individuals, small businesses, and small farms affected by Covid-19 consistent with safe and sound banking practices.”
Congress must provide immediate relief for consumers. Here’s how.
Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) [Medium, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-22-20]
3.  prohibit debt collectors from using predatory and intrusive measures to collect a debt.
S.3565 - Small Business and Consumer Debt Collection Emergency Relief Act... 
4.  ...make sure Americans don’t have a permanent mark on their record due to a global crisis that was out of their hands. We do that by ensuring that consumers don’t take an unfair hit to their credit because of any negative entries on their credit reports during the crisis.
Occupy activist-turned legislator (and DSA member) gets eviction moratorium signed into law. in Massachusetts[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-22-20]
Dave Weigel
Occupy activist-turned legislator (and DSA member) gets eviction moratorium signed into law.
Sanders lost the primary, which inspired some "whither the left" takes. But the long-term left strategy of building local/state beachheads gets results.
Quote Tweet
Mike Connolly
 · Apr 20
Thank you @MassGovernor for singing our bill establishing an Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium into law this afternoon. This will help ensure housing and community stability during the #COVIDー19 emergency in Massachusetts.

“The Long New Deal” 
[Journal of Peasant Studies, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-21-20] 
“The twenty-five to thirty-four-year-old farming demographic grew from 2007 to 2012. And although some farmers under forty-five are conservative, there are reasons for qualified optimism. A survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition suggests that there’s a generation of young people who want to farm sustainably, organically, and as a part of a robust local food system (Ackoff, Bahrenburg, and Shute 2017). Their main concerns are an inability to afford land, student debt, poor health care, and a shortfall of skilled farm labor. Readers in urban areas may recognize some of these concerns as their own. And it offers an opportunity for the Green New Deal to build a bloc that might counter the dominant one.” • Very interesting comparison between the New Deal and (a potential) Green New Deal.
India Post delivers ₹412cr cash in doorstep banking revolution 
[Times of India, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]

Gavin Newsom’s Nation-State 
[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 4-22-20]
Newsom’s moves—and those of other blue-state governors who have taken the lead in confronting the crisis in the face of the Trump administration’s failures—are the sort of decisive action that Americans might have more readily expected from the federal government. From the Pacific Rim to the Northeast, the blue states have leapt early into the breach with strong measures on social distancing, determination to ramp up testing, and carefully considered plans for returning to some semblance of a normal in calibrated phases. The White House has been forced to play catch-up.
 How a communist mayor is defeating privatisation in Chile
[Open Democracy, via Naked Capitalism  4-22-20]

Grover Norquist’s Dismantled State Struggles to Respond

The PPP is letting our small restaurants and businesses die
[Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2020]
Many useful links with details of the inadequacies of the CARES Act and its follow-ons so far.
Restaurants are among the hardest-hit businesses during the coronavirus shutdown. The National Restaurant Assn. estimates that 3 million restaurant employees lost their jobs in March, a month in which restaurants lost about $45 billion in revenue. The industry is bleeding out....
After opening applications on April 3, the SBA announced Thursday that the $350 billion earmarked for the program is gone, stating: “The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding.”
That leaves many businesses, particularly clients of large banks who prioritize their wealthy clients, in the dark. Fewer than 6% of applicants have received their PPP loans, according to the website COVID Loan Tracker, which has compiled data from 15,000 small businesses. The hospitality industry has fared poorly; despite being among the hardest hit, only 9% of loan approvals have gone to “accommodation and food services,” according to the SBA.
The vast majority of the nation’s 30.2 million small businesses have been left flapping in the wind. Meanwhile, the rich get richer.
According to a public filing, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, a publicly traded company with 474 locations and 6,000 employees at the end of last year, was approved for $10 million in funds. Ruth’s Chris Steak House was approved for $20 million; it subverted the $10-million loan cap by applying through two subsidiaries, according to the SEC filing.
Banks, naturally, will profit. Collecting fees ranging from 1% for loans over $2 million to 5% for loans under $350,000, they stand to make billions from the PPP....
Restaurants, more than any other kind of small business in this country, are symbols of promise. They’re frequently opened by immigrants and first-time business owners, non-English speakers, and others simply wishing to feed others and provide for their own families. For many, restaurants and small businesses are the quintessential entrée into the dream of creating a life in America and standing on one’s own two feet.
Unsanitized: Let’s Keep Everyone on the Payroll
Also, the sad demise of local restaurants. This is The COVID-19 Daily Report for April 19, 2020.
David Dayen
Restaurants create local distinctiveness and build culture, and they have not been afforded a sector-wide bailout like the airline industry, despite just as massive a hit to their bottom lines. They have to fight it out for a way-too-small pot of money in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which ran out of cash on Thursday. For many banks, the money was depleted within minutes of opening the program to applications.
About 1.6 million of the 30 million-plus small businesses managed to get a forgivable loan, a drop in the ocean for a sector that employs nearly half of all workers. The program also stretched the definition of “small business” to the bounds of incredulity. 
Big, publicly traded chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Potbelly secured PPP loans worth a combined $30 million (Ruth’s Chris used two subsidiaries to evade the $10 million cap). Chains with multiple locations were eligible as long as the locations had fewer than 500 employees. Maybe a hundred businesses without access to capital markets could have been helped with that $30 million. 
Overall, only 9 percent of the total PPP funding went to restaurants and food services, according to the Small Business Administration (Construction companies wound up with more than that). Congress is now talking about adding more funding, maybe up to $400 billion according to the latest reports. More funding will be added. (It should never have run out, because the Federal Reserve is able to buy the loans and place them on its balance sheet, and thus support all the demand without having to fear that it will “lose” money.)
GOP lawmakers slashed NC’s unemployment compensation [in 2013]. Are they proud now?
Gene Nichol, April 13, 2020 [Raleigh News and Observer]
One of the first bills passed by the General Assembly in 2013, marking the Republican ascendancy, was H.B 4. It launched the steepest cut to a state unemployment compensation program in American history. Rep. Julia Howard, architect of the reductions, said our old approach had grown too rich, “becoming a welfare” scheme. Labor scholars called the changes “a radical reduction in benefits for people unemployed through no fault of their own.” Still, Sen. Phil Berger and then-Speaker of the House Thom Tillis pronounced themselves well satisfied. Moving from the middle of the pack to stingiest on record – that’s a message you can take on the road. 
As a result of H.B.4, by 2019, only 8.6% of NC jobless workers were receiving unemployment compensation – placing us 51st in the nation (when DC and Puerto Rico are included). Our average duration of benefits, 8.6 weeks, had sunk to the country’s lowest. We now provide (on average) just $264 a week, again near the bottom, replacing just 32 cents of every dollar of lost income. 
Our cuts were so extreme we forfeited hundreds of millions in federal dollars. We were the only state to give Washington back its money rather than allow it to go to poor residents.... 
 In 2018, Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute, who had conducted a study of our unemployment system, testified before the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Oversight Committee. Vroman explained that our worst to be found program – smallest payments, shortest times, fewest people – fiercely underserves the state’s workers. Legislators beamed. Rep. Dana Bumgardner, a Gaston County Republican, replied,in full snark: “I think where we are is a good thing. What is the point of your presentation?”
Veteran attorney explains specific upgrades NC should make to its unemployment insurance system
[North Carolina Justice Center, April 10, 2020]
Actions recommended by Bill Rowe, general counsel and deputy director for advocacy at the North Carolina Justice Center:
  • Change North Carolina’s weekly benefit calculation.
  • Increase the maximum benefit amount. This will also put more money in workers’ pockets post July 31 when the federal add-on of $600 ends.
  • Increase the maximum duration someone can receive benefits
  • Address roadblocks created by the state’s low “earnings disregard.”
  • Adopt Work-Sharing/Short-Time Compensation Option for Employers.
  • Allow “attached claims” to be filed by employers. 
[Sludge, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-20-20]
“So far in the 2019-20 election cycle, lobbyists who represent the health insurance industry have raised more than $736,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the campaign arm of House Democrats that works to protect incumbents against Republican and progressive challengers. The contributions from health insurance lobbyists make up nearly a third of all the bundled lobbyist contributions the DCCC has reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this cycle, and many of the lobbyists have bundled checks for the DCCC in previous cycles as well.”

Capitalism in the time of COVID19

[CNBC, via Naked Capitalism 4-22-20]

Matt Taibbi, April17, 2020 [via Naked Capitalism 4-19-20]
Although the $2 trillion coronavirus rescue was approved unanimously, a set of tax breaks was stuck in by Republicans, in the original version of the CARES Act put forward by Mitch McConnell.

When Donald Trump signed his whopper Tax Cuts and Jobs Act two years ago, the bill contained clauses to offset the loss of revenue that would entail from shaving down the top individual tax rate relatively a little (from 39.6% to 37%) and slashing the corporate tax rate a lot (from 35% all the way down to 21%). 
80% of the tax cut in the bailout "went to just 43,000 taxpayers each earning over $1 million a year. The average tax break for those 43,000 individuals was $1.6 million." 

Emergency room doctors facing pay cuts and understaffing during pandemic [CBS, via Naked Capitalism 4-21-20]

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism 4-23-20]

The Second Phase of Unemployment Will Be Harsher [Atlantic[CBS, via Naked Capitalism 4-21-20]

Will Big Pharma Fleece Us On A COVID Treatment That We Helped Fund? 
David Sirota [Too Much Information, via Naked Capitalism 4-19-20 HAWB]
Remdesivir has been developed with an infusion of public resources -- specifically, “the ​U.S. Army, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health/National Institute Allergies and Infectious Diseases subsidized the preclinical and clinical development of remdesivir,” according to a recent report from Knowledge Ecology International. Some of that research was conducted in collaboration with public universities.
Our response to the coronavirus demonstrates how far America has careened off track 
[Boston Globe, via Naked Capitalism 4-19-20]
Testing large numbers of Americans for a raging virus is “never going to happen,” President Trump recently asserted. The amount of money and focused energy that such a project would require is evidently beyond the capacity of the United States. Yet around the same time Trump dismissed the idea of widespread testing, his Indo-Pacific Command announced that it is seeking an extra $20 billion to build up naval forces for confrontation with China.
‘It’s a terrific symbol’: Mnuchin takes credit for adding Trump’s name to coronavirus stimulus checks [USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 4-20-20]

The White House Has Erected A Blockade Stopping States and Hospitals From Getting Coronavirus PPE 
[New York magazine, via Naked Capitalism 4-20-20]
Over the last few weeks, it has started to appear as though, in addition to abandoning the states to their own devices in a time of national emergency, the federal government has effectively erected a blockade — like that which the Union used to choke off the supply chains of the Confederacy during the Civil War — to prevent delivery of critical medical equipment to states desperately in need. At the very least, federal authorities have made governors and hospital executives all around the country operate in fear that shipments of necessary supplies will be seized along the way. In a time of pandemic, having evacuated federal responsibility, the White House is functionally waging a war against state leadership and the initiative of local hospitals to secure what they need to provide sufficient treatment. 
Yesterday, a letter published by the New England Journal of Medicine highlighted the extraordinary measures that had to be taken to secure the delivery into Massachusetts of equipment that had been bought and paid for. The NEJM, which featured the letter in its COVID-19 Notes series, is far from a platform of partisan alarm or hysteria — it is among the most sober and high-minded professional journals in the country. It’s worth reading the correspondence, written by an executive running a small health system, at some length:

Economic Armageddon

[Politico 4-23-20]
Americans filed 4.4 million jobless claims last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, pushing the five-week total of coronavirus-driven job losses to more than 26 million. The new report, which covers the week ending April 18, lent plausibility to economists' prediction that the unemployment rate will by summer be within range of the 25 percent peak recorded in 1933 during the Great Depression.
"All else equal, job losses of this magnitude would translate into an unemployment rate of 18.3 [percent]," said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.
[Daily Mail, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]

Congressional Budget Office April 24, 2020
In the second quarter of 2020, the economy will experience a sharp contraction, and CBO’s current economic projections include the following:
  • Inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (real GDP) is expected to decline by about 12 percent during the second quarter, equivalent to a decline at an annual rate of 40 percent for that quarter.
  • The unemployment rate is expected to average close to 14 percent during the second quarter.
  • Interest rates on 3-month Treasury bills and 10-year Treasury notes are expected to average 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively, during that quarter.
  • For fiscal year 2020... The federal budget deficit is projected to be $3.7 trillion.
Leaders of county and local governments are near panic
[National Association of Counties April 20, 2020 conference call]
Leaders of county and local governments are near panic because their revenues are collapsing at the same time that demand for emergency services is surging. These local leaders are very upset and alarmed that the Republicans in Congress have blocked any direct funding to state and local governments thus far. They are trying very hard to remain nonpartisan, but their bitterness toward the Republican leadership in the Congress cannot be hidden. I think it is fair to use the word "traumatized" to describe them. Listen to this April 20, 2020 conference call led by National Association of Counties Executive Director MATTHEW CHASE giving a Congressional legislation update to NACo members.

County budgets may see $144 billion hit from COVID-19
[National Association of Counties Apr. 22, 2020]
Counties nationwide could see a $144 billion hit to their budgets through the end of 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report “Running on Fumes: Impact of COVID-19 on County Finances,” (pdf) released by NACo. The estimate includes anticipated increases in expenditures, lost sales tax revenue, lost revenue from charges and fees, lost business license tax revenue and lost income tax revenue. The estimate does not include potential lost revenue from property taxes or from state sales or income taxes that are shared with counties. 
An additional $54 billion in property tax revenue is at risk in states where counties have not yet collected any or all property tax revenue. 
Meanwhile, county budgets are being stretched to the limit, fielding 911 calls, overseeing emergency operation centers and administering human service programs for millions of newly unemployed residents.  
Even before the novel coronavirus pandemic began, counties invested in community health services and hospitals – nearly $100 billion each year. Now, county budgets are being stretched thin as they work with nearly 1,000 county-supported hospitals and 1,900 local public health authorities to fight the virus. 
Preliminary estimates from NACo show counties could expect a nearly $30 billion increase in expenditures, should the pandemic last through FY2021. This would translate into the median county spending 8 percent of its resources  responding to COVID-19, with some counties spending more depending on their responsibilities. NACo estimates that 76 counties could spend half of their budgets fighting coronavirus. 
Furloughing employees to help stem losses is all part of the mix. Due to the rising costs of battling COVID-19 and revenue losses, many counties have had to furlough or lay off employees, on average laying off about 6 percent of the workforce, although some counties are seeing even higher numbers. Franklin County, Pa. has furloughed 25 percent of its workforce or 2,000 of about 8,000 employees.
“Running on Fumes: Impact of COVID-19 on County Finances,” (pdf)
[National Association of Counties Apr. 22, 2020]
  • Harris County, Texas has already incurred nearly $43 million of  expenditures and expects to continue to invest nearly $11 million each month, resulting in nearly $138 million in additional expenditures by the end of 2020. The county is investing additional funds in its county hospital district, public health services, sheriff’s department, public works department, among other items.vii
  • Contra Costa County, Calif. has estimated the crisis will have cost its health department alone $46 million through the month of May: $6 million for equipment, $6 million for testing, $4 million for services and supplies, $5 million for IT infrastructure, $5 million in increased staffing costs and $20 million in service interruption.
  • Small, rural counties are known for having especially tight budgets, so the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting their finances particularly hard. 
  • Roscommon County (Mich.), a county of less than 24,000 residents with a budget of just over $28 million, estimated that it will incur an additional $335,000 of expenditures each month for closure costs, extra equipment and overtime. These costs translate to a loss of over 14 percent of the county’s monthly budget and take away funding from other crucial county services.ix 
  • Humboldt County, Nev., home to 17,079 residents, is projecting $468,000/month in new costs that include support to their county hospital, county emergency response, increased inmate medical, emergency day care for essential employees, additional supplies, IT costs for telework and staff costs. The estimate also includes monthly lost revenue of $118,000
Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors Call on Congress for the Immediate Passage of Relief to Local Governments
National Association of Counties, Apr. 18, 2020
Washington, DC – Today, the National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC) and United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) combined voices to advocate for and promote the health and well-being of America’s cities, towns, villages and counties.
On Saturday, the three organizations made it clear that direct, flexible relief to local governments of all sizes is desperately needed as local governments continue to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-20-20]
“Tyson Foods Inc. is halting its largest pork plant, becoming the third major U.S. facility to shut as the coronavirus sickens workers, exacerbates livestock gluts and threatens supplies.”
Tyson Foods idles largest pork plant as virus slams industry 
[AP, via Naked Capitalism 4-23-20]

Putting Georgians back to work is "very calculated" 
posted by a restaurant owner [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]

“GOP Governors Will Push Workers off Unemployment by Reopening Early” 
[Vice, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
“Republican governors in states like Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina have announced plans to begin reopening their states’ economies despite warnings by health officials that it’s too early to do so. The decisions mean that businesses may soon start calling people back into work before they feel safe, creating a coronavirus-specific dilemma: If people in those states are offered their jobs back, but refuse to take them out of fear for their safety, they will likely no longer qualify for unemployment benefits—even though they’re taking the same precautions as people one state over.”

Florida is paying only 14% of unemployment claims filed 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]

[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
“Efforts to ramp up coronavirus testing programs in various states are running up against a thicket of parts shortages across medical supply chains. The private sector hasn’t been able to deliver nearly enough tests to meet the huge demand in the U.S…. more than six weeks after the Food and Drug Administration allowed private companies to manufacture test kits and use them without needing approval”  “Experts say the problems are partly because of the lack of central direction, leaving officials in states to sort out procurement and distribution while individual labs are vying for supplies in a fractured and exhausted marketplace. One marquee effort involving Abbott Laboratories quickly ran into the supply-chain issues that have plagued the testing buildup, with state officials saying they couldn’t easily obtain enough of Abbott’s single-use cartridges to actually test patients.”
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 4-20-20]

[American Shipper, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-22-20]
“Volumes arriving at American seaports are inherently limited by the capacity of inbound container ships. That capacity can be determined well in advance through sailing schedules. Announced departure cancellations now extend until the end of July. It takes around 14-22 days for a container ship to transit from China to Los Angeles or Long Beach, California; it can take around 30-40 days for a transit from Asia to East Coast ports. To foresee the pace of U.S. import reductions, take the week of departures for canceled sailings, the TEU capacities affected, and add in the transit time. Nerijus Poskus, global head of ocean freight at Flexport, told FreightWaves that 13% of trans-Pacific sailings to the U.S. departing the week of April 6-13 have been canceled. The share of canceled sailings rose to 20% in April 13-19 and is 28% in April 20-26, 21% in April 27-May 3 and 26% in May 3-9. Tack on two to six weeks to those dates for transits and a significant decline in U.S. imports in May and June is guaranteed.”
“To Understand the Medical Supply Shortage, It Helps to Know How the U.S. Lost the Lithium Ion Battery to China” 
[Pro Publica, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-22-20] 
“[T]he effort to establish a lithium battery manufacturing base in the U.S. largely failed, even after the Obama administration made it a keystone of its 2009 stimulus program, aiming to produce 40% of the world’s lithium ion batteries for advanced vehicles by 2015. Today, that number stands at about 10%, largely because of Tesla’s battery plant in Nevada. Most of the batteries used in a plethora of U.S. products are shipped in from China or other foreign suppliers. Despite its economic nationalist rhetoric, the Trump administration has done little to revive battery-making, proposing deep cuts to alternative energy research and favoring fossil fuels at every turn…. But the problem isn’t only with government policy. In contrast to the patient, long-term view of investors in countries like Japan and South Korea, America’s fast-churning capital markets tend to abandon companies that don’t grow quickly enough. To fill that gap, [ Sridhar Kota, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan who served as assistant director for advanced manufacturing at the Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Obama administration], thinks governments should raise money for publicly managed, privately financed venture funds.”

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

USGS releases first-ever comprehensive geologic map of the Moon 
[, via Naked Capitalism 4-23-20]
“The lunar map, called the “Unified Geologic Map of the Moon,” will serve as the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology for future human missions and will be invaluable for the international scientific community, educators and the public-at-large. The digital map is available online now and shows the moon’s geology in incredible detail (1:5,000,000 scale).”

How slaveholders in the Caribbean maintained control
[Psyche, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]
As a manager of several large Jamaican sugar estates remarked in 1804, it was a general policy to ‘have the Negroes on an estate a mixture of nations so as to balance one set against another, to be sure of having two-thirds join the whites’ (in the event of an uprising). The theory behind this was that enslaved people from one African ‘nation’ would refuse to join rebellions plotted by those from others, or by creole (locally born) slaves, choosing instead to serve their white masters in the hope of rewards for loyal service. Privileging some enslaved people above others was another effective means of sowing discord. 
Why Coronavirus Won’t Be the End of It: The ongoing threat of vector-borne disease is reshaping our understanding of the dangers of a warming climate.
[Capital and Main, via Naked Capitalism  4-21-20]

Collapse of Independent News Media

“Misinformation During a Pandemic” (PDF) 
Leonardo Bursztyn, Aakaash Rao, Christopher Roth, and David Yanagizawa-Drott 
[Becker Friedman Institute, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-21-20] F
rom the abstract: “[W]e present novel survey evidence that Hannity’s viewers changed behavior in response to the virus later than other Fox News viewers, while Carlson’s viewers changed behavior earlier. We then turn to the effects on the pandemic itself, examining health outcomes across counties. First, we document that greater viewership of Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight is strongly associated with a greater number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the early stages of the pandemic. The relationship is stable across an expansive set of robustness tests. To better identify the effect of differential viewership of the two shows, we employ a novel instrumental variable strategy exploiting variation in when shows are broadcast in relation to local sunset times. These estimates also show that greater exposure to Hannity relative to Tucker Carlson Tonight is associated with a greater number of county-level cases and deaths. Furthermore, the results suggest that in mid-March, after Hannity’s shift in tone, the diverging trajectories on COVID-19 cases begin to revert. We provide additional evidence consistent with misinformation being an important mechanism driving the effects in the data. While our findings cannot yet speak to long-term effects, they indicate that provision of misinformation in the early stages of a pandemic can have important consequences for how a disease ultimately affects the population.”

Climate and environmental crises

“The American west’s drought is its second-worst for 12 centuries”
[Economist, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-21-20]
“The south-west of the United States, together with adjacent parts of Mexico across the Rio Grande, is one of the driest parts of the North American continent. But, over the past two decades, even that expected dryness has been taken to the limit. According to Park Williams, who works at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the current lack of rainfall in the area constitutes a megadrought of a magnitude seen on only four other occasions in the past 1,200 years. Dr Williams and his collaborators studied the annual growth rings of 1,586 ancient trees from Oregon and Montana all the way down to the northern reaches of Mexico, in order to reconstruct soil-moisture patterns going back to 800ad.”
“‘Hydrologists should be happy.’ Big Supreme Court ruling bolsters groundwater science” 
[Science, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-24-20]  
“Today, in a closely watched case with extensive implications, the court ruled six to three that the federal Clean Water Act applies to pollution of underground water that flows into nearby lakes, streams, and bays, as long as it is similar to pouring pollutants directly into these water bodies…. In the decision, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that groundwater pollution was subject to federal water-quality regulations as long as the connection to surface waters was the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge such as a pipe… The court’s decision spells out criteria that might influence whether groundwater pollution meets the new standard and is covered by the law. Those criteria could include how quickly and how far the pollution moves from its source before reaching surface water, the underlying geology, and how much the chemicals are diluted or broken down.”
“How to bail out the oil industry without destroying the planet” 
[The Week, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-24-20] 
“The problem with the oil industry is that it’s run by people who don’t want it to die. But what if it was run by people who did recognize the need to ultimately dismantle fossil fuel production? If the federal government just straight-up nationalized the industry in the near future, it would have almost three decades to transition its workers and physical capital into green sectors, wind down oil production to zero, and figure out what to do about plastics and petrochemicals. Among progressive climate activists, there are burgeoning proposals to do just that. And right now, thanks to the coronavirus crisis, the oil industry has never been a cheaper bargain. Haliburton’s stock is down by two-thirds. ExxonMobil’s is down by 38 percent. Every energy company on the S&P 500 could be bought out for a grand total of about $700 billion — or roughly one-third of what the U.S. government just spent on the CARES Act.”

Information Age Dystopia

“Amazon-owned Whole Foods is quietly tracking its employees with a heat map tool that ranks which stores are most at risk of unionizing” 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-21-20] 
 “Whole Foods is keeping an eye on stores at risk of unionizing through an interactive heat map, according to five people with knowledge of the matter and internal documents…. The heat map is powered by an elaborate scoring system, which assigns a rating to each of Whole Foods’ 510 stores based on the likelihood that their employees might form or join a union. The stores’ individual risk scores are calculated from more than two dozen metrics, including employee ‘loyalty,’ turnover, and racial diversity; ‘tipline’ calls to human resources; proximity to a union office; and violations recorded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The map also tracks local economic and demographic factors such as the unemployment rate in a store’s location and the percentage of families in the area living below the poverty line. The stores’ scores on each metric are fed into the heat map, which is a geographic illustration of the United States peppered with red spots to indicate high-risk Whole Foods stores.

Neoliberalism requires a police state

US ‘Plunders’ $342m of Venezuelan Funds as COVID-19 Hotspot Breaks Out at Baseball Academy 
[Venezuelanalysis, via Naked Capitalism  4-22-20]

How the United States killed Brazil’s Democracy. Again. 
[Brasil Wire, via Naked Capitalism  4-22-20]

Disrupting mainstream politics

What AOC Gets that Bernie Didn’t
[Politico 4-16-20]

“An Early Look At Who Bernie Sanders Wants To Join Joe Biden’s Policy Task Forces” 
[HuffPo, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-20-20]
“HuffPost obtained a preliminary list of some of the people Sanders is considering. Everything is still in early stages, and the two campaigns have been negotiating who will be in these six policy groups and how big the groups will be. The list includes progressive policy experts who heavily influenced Sanders’ campaign platform over the last year, such as Darrick Hamilton, The Ohio State University economist who has become one of the leading academics on the racial wealth gap in the United States, and Stephanie Kelton, an economist at Stony Brook University who has championed Modern Monetary Theory — the idea that governments can never run out of money, and that deficit spending on major domestic programs would lead to economic growth. Though not exhaustive, some other names on the Sanders campaign’s early list include Heather Boushey, an inequality expert with the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two leading economists in the world of wealth inequality and progressive taxation; Jeffrey Sachs, who runs Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development; Josh Bivens, an economist with progressive think tank Economic Policy Institute; Daniel Kammen, who runs the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at University of California, Berkeley; Tara Raghuveer, an affordable housing activist who runs the Kansas City Tenants group; and Bonnie Castillo, the executive director with the National Nurses Union. Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager who has been negotiating with the Biden campaign for weeks, would not confirm that the campaign was considering these individuals. These task forces are not yet finalized and could consist of a mix of campaign staff and outside experts. HuffPost reached out to every person on the preliminary list. Sachs and Kammen said they had not heard from either campaign. Boushey and Kelton declined to comment. The others did not respond.” 
The Moral and Strategic Calculus of Voting for Joe Biden to Defeat Trump — or Not
Jeremy Scahill [The Intercept, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-21-20]
The fact that the Democrats have forced through a candidate that many people don’t believe is fully functional and will rely on the strength of “the team” assembled around him is a pretty grim statement about the state of democracy in the U.S. If Biden is the best the Democrats have to offer in the face of Trump, the system is rotten.
Briahna Joy Gray, [The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
Grey: “I’ll be voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary, and I encourage everybody to do so, because that’s where leverage lies. My vote in the fall is contingent on whether Joe Biden supports Medicare for All, canceling student-loan debt, canceling medical debt, having a wealth tax. The message isn’t that I’m never going to vote for Biden. The message is that Biden should do what the majority of Americans want him to do.”

Democratic Party leadership insists on suicide

BY ROBERT KUTTNER APRIL 17, 2020 [American Prospect]

“Larry Summers Advising Biden Campaign on Economic Recovery” 
[Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-24-20] 
“Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on economic policy, including its plans to revive the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic, according to five people familiar with his involvement…. Summers was the first name on the ‘Biden do not reappoint list’ published last month by the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, who wrote that Summers in 2009 ‘not only lowballed the necessary economic stimulus and ended it prematurely, but he successfully fought for rescuing the biggest banks rather than taking them into temporary receivership.’ Summers’s involvement in Biden’s campaign, however, offered some reassurance Wall Street that Biden is not moving too far to the left from the centrist positions that earned him his establishment support.
Lambert Strether added this tweet:
Kate Willett ✔ @katewillett The guy who is advising the Biden campaign on economic recovery  

From Thomas Franks' 2016 book Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? If you continue to be perplexed and mystified at how ineffective the Democratic Party is as an opposition party, you need to read Listen Liberal. It's all about drinking the neoliberal koolaid. Pay particular attention to anyone who shrieks "There is no such koolaid!" and ask Cui bono? while examining their income streams.

Lambert Strether:
[Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
The question nobody is asking: Does the United States have the operational capability to mobilize, no matter the party in charge? I know that for some this may verge on nihilism, but the alternative to Trump is not a heroic team from America’s past of the New Deal, World War II, or the Apollo program, but whatever team the Democrat Party would put in place... What would the Democrat team that replaced Trump’s team look like? Would Donna Shalala be on it? How about the team that ran Clinton’s campaign? Or the team that launched the ObamaCare marketplace website without testing it? Or the team that ran HAMP? Or the team that ran Obama’s pathetically inadequate response to the Crash, which lost them the Senate and paved the way for Trump? And if such a team existed, would it not have already come together to pose a coherent alternative? And I don’t mean Op-Eds (ka-ching) or NGO white papers (ka-ching) or campaign statements (ka-ching), I mean an actual team of qualified individuals presenting an alternative plan and a timeline, with the full weight of the Democrat Party behind it.
Lambert Strether, the next day
[Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-24-20]
(To be fair, the PMC meritocrats who form the Democrat Party base believe exactly what Summers believes.) Yesterday I asked: “The question nobody is asking: Does the United States have the operational capability to mobilize, no matter the party in charge?” And I guess I have my answer: No, no more than Obama’s team did in 2009. And I asked: “What would the Democrat team that replaced Trump’s team look like?” And I have my answer there, too: Biden’s team will look like Obama’s 2009 team. This is, of course, another kick in the teeth for the left, but Biden’s voters want an Obama restoration, and they will have it.
I will repeat here my greatest fear of a Biden administration: it will be so wedded to the status quo, it will not have the intellectual capacity to conceive of the solutions needed to stop and repair USA's systemic rot. Note, for example, the Obama team's decision to push a crash program of oil fracking instead of a crash program of building solar, wind and other renewables: that decision has now blown up spectacularly with the collapse in oil prices the past two months.  "Nothing would fundamentally change" Biden assured his rich donors in June 2019, and now it appears that Obama's team is going to be Biden's also. So, as Edward Burmila warned about the same time
It is only luck that the right has not yet found a skilled autocrat. Palin was clueless, and Trump is his own worst enemy. He is a historically weak president who lacks even a passing understanding of how to use the power of the office effectively…. Democrats may get one more chance to govern before a competent authoritarian emerges from the right
Sahil Kapur, NBC News [Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-20-20]
@sahilkapur Joe Biden held a virtual fundraiser tonight co-hosted by Erskine Bowles, the former chief of staff to Bill Clinton and namesake of the Bowles-Simpson commission on deficit reduction.
[Intercept, via Naked Capitalism 4-25-20]
We're getting lined up to find out if Trump's "grab them by the pussy" is the new norm.
“Dems Give Unanimous Consent To Trump”
David Sirota, Too Much Information, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 4-23-20]
“Why do Democrats want to win Congress if they don’t want to use power? What is the entire point of Democrats raising money and ginning up activist energy to win control of the U.S. House, if when a crisis hits they just pass whatever Mitch McConnell sends them? Is there anything they’ll actually negotiate for? And why won’t they flip the script and force McConnell to vote yes or no on their own agenda?… Until there are new leaders — or until there is real pressure from the left — the Democratic Party seems intent on being a rubber stamp.”

Republicans moving to left-flank Biden and Democrats on economics

Rubio: We Need a More Resilient American Economy: With a sensible industrial policy, workers will take precedence over short-term corporate gain.
By Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) [New York Times, April 20, 2020]
Rubio is chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.
Over the past several decades, our nation’s political and economic leaders, Democratic and Republican, made choices about how to structure our society — choosing to prize economic efficiency over resiliency, financial gains over Main Street investment, individual enrichment over the common good.... 
On the 2016 campaign trail, I spoke repeatedly with hard-working Americans who felt helpless as they watched jobs disappear and their communities crumble because businesses and lawmakers prioritized maximizing short-term gains over the long-term security of America, its communities and its people. 
My time serving on the Select Committee on Intelligence was similarly transformative; in instance after instance, it was clear that many of the serious problems we face originated in our economic relationship with China. As did many, I believed capitalism would change China for the better; instead, China changed capitalism for the worse. This new status quo means younger generations, including my children, will grow up in an America of reduced economic prospects. 
Today, the result of these failed policy choices is that our manufacturing base is severely diminished, and millions of productive jobs that relied on it are gone. The American domestic supply chain devoted to producing vital medical supplies like generic pharmaceuticals and respirators has withered.

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